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Berdan’s Sharpshooters: Advanced Rifles and Elite Marksmen

At the dawn of the Civil War, inventor and marksman Hiram Berdan proposed units of elite marksmen who would perform their deadly work at a distance from the front lines, specifically targeting enemy officers and leadership.

The new units were the 1st and 2nd U.S. Sharpshooters and became known as “Berdan’s Sharpshooters.” They wore specialized uniforms to help conceal themselves, utilized unconventional tactics, engaged at extended distances, and fired their specially ordered Sharps rifles – forever known as a Berdan Sharps. According to the Smithsonian, “They were the only volunteer unit in the war to bear the designation ‘United States’ and the only one supplied by the federal government.”

With only 2,000 ever purchased by the U.S. Ordnance Department, there are more fakes and reproductions than there are originals. However, not only is this example wonderfully authentic, it is mostly likely the finest condition Berdan’s Sharps in existence – a near miracle considering its service life.

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